Making a list

To continue from last time—how do you decide when to automate something away?

Whether it’s part of your type design workflow, or part of your business, a task could be:

  • It’s annoying or tedious
  • It’s easy do incorrectly
  • It isn’t something that specifically has to be done by you

In short, it doesn’t feel like a good use of your time.

It’s something that software might be able to make easier for you, but in the meantime, you have to do it manually. You’d prefer to do something for your design business that only you can do.

This is a situation I have found myself in plenty of times, and because many type designers have scripting or development experience too, I bet their mind goes to the same place:

I should write some code to fix this.

I have to suppress this instinct all the time! 

Just today, I ran into an issue with exporting business credit card statements to send to my accountant, and my mind immediately goes to: how could I write a script to never have to think about this again.

But, that is rarely how software that runs or is used regularly works: you always have to think about it again, because there will be something you didn’t think of when you first built it.

My bookkeeping software is supposed to be dealing with this specific issue for me, but guess what, it doesn’t work right now. And here I am thinking about writing even more software to try and fix it.

For me, the counterbalance to this instinct has been the simple checklist.

Whether you write code alongside your type design work or not, I have found the checklist—internal docs, bulleted list, “Standard Operating Procedures,” however you want to refer to it—very helpful.

Instead of writing a software script to automate the steps, it is much easier to start a “text” script of the steps—a list of what to do.

Then, when it comes time to do that task, you can run through the script. In a sense, turn off your brain a bit, and be the machine.

If you run into issues, you can revise that step.

Soon, you might find you are running through the process faster, or you are making improvements to the actual outcome because you are slowly iterating on it rather than “inventing” it every time you have to figure it out.

My library of these isn’t complete or excessive, but it is reassuring to know if I don’t, ex. run an event for the typography meetup I organize for a number of months or years (what could have possibly interrupted that), I have a checklist on the workflow for speaker outreach or post-event video backups.

And should this be something that you can one day automate away with software, well, you’ll know exactly how you want it done.

Do you have any checklists or internal guides you regularly run through for yourself? I’d be really curious to hear about them, and how they work for your type design process or any other part of your business!

Until next time,